Who re­ally ben­e­fits from the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district?

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

We can learn a lot from the law­less towns of the old West, one of which was de­picted in the 1955 movie called “The Far Coun­try.” The vil­lain is a cor­rupt, wealthy, yet af­fa­ble judge/ sher­iff who uses his power so that he alone will profit in the Gold Rush town. While the movie is fic­tional, the truth is that some­times those in power rig the sys­tem so that they and their friends profit at the ex­pense of oth­ers.

Last month, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion District (WCD). “The ob­jec­tive is to pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman Creek Stream Val­ley and the head­wa­ters of the Port To­bacco River and to pro­tect the wa­ter­shed area’s nat­u­ral re­sources.”

My ques­tion is, if the county is con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment, why are they lim­it­ing their land-use re­stric­tions to 36,000 acres in the north­west­ern por­tion of Charles County? With the pas­sage of the WCD, it’s now dic­tated by law that cer­tain landown­ers must sac­ri­fice their land use for the good of the en­vi­ron­ment, while com­mer­cial­iza­tion, traf­fic con­ges­tion, de­vel­op­ment, sprawl and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion are on­go­ing with no end in sight in other ar­eas of county, such as Wal­dorf. Rather than pe­nal­iz­ing a se­lect group of cit­i­zens, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion should be an agreed-upon shared sac­ri­fice among every­one in Charles County.

But that is not the case. Ac­cord­ing to the Charles County Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment web­site, http://www.meetcharle­scounty.com/ wurc, Charles County has com­mit­ted $40 mil­lion of our tax dol­lars to­ward in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port the re­de­vel­op­ment of 300 acres for the Wal­dorf Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment Cor­ri­dor. The plan in­cludes 500 multifamily dwellings, 130,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space, a 50,000 square foot of­fice build­ing, a 50,000 square foot of­fice build­ing, a 100-room ho­tel and 1,200 struc­tured park­ing spa­ces as well as a multi-pur­pose civic cen­ter. “The WURC in­fra­struc­ture de­sign study, which in­cludes roads, wa­ter and sewer, has been un­der­way since April 2015. Con­struc­tion is project [sic] to be­gin early 2017, with project completion an­tic­i­pated in 2019.”

Who stands to gain mon­e­tar­ily from this project? How is it jus­ti­fi­able to man­date that cer­tain seg­ments of land re­main un­touched, while at the same time, other parts of the county con­tinue to be bull­dozed and de­vel­oped? Could it be that the WCD stems from ne­far­i­ous mo­tives of those in power and their crony cap­i­tal­ist friends, rather than en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns? True en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists should be pos­ing these same ques­tions.

Think about it. With the land in the WCD zone ly­ing fal­low by law, es­sen­tially, landown­ers, real es­tate mag­nates and devel­op­ers in Wal­dorf and other ar­eas of the county hold a monopoly on build­able land. Who are the in­di­vid­u­als who will profit from the WCD? Which of­fice hold­ers do they sup­port and to whom do they make po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions? Who is go­ing to fol­low the money trail and re­port back to Charles coun­tians?

In the old West movies, there’s usu­ally a shoot out and the vil­lain gets ar­rested. To­day, it’s up to each of us to set­tle the score. We need to de­ter­mine if pub­lic of­fi­cials are work­ing for the peo­ple and try­ing to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, or are they act­ing in their own best in­ter­ests and that of their elit­ist friends. If it’s the lat­ter, they need to be voted out of of­fice.

Ber­nadette Smith, Wel­come

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